ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 10/29/09
So a couple weeks ago, NASA declared they’d found water on the moon - again - and they bombed the moon - again - and no one gave a damn - again. We’ve explained elsewhere why NASA’s so coo-coo for cocoa puffs over extraterrestrial water ( http://www.republibot.com/content/realspace-why-nasa-so-crazy-extraterre... ). Back during the Clementine mission in the mid-1990s, they declared ‘very likely’ signs of water on the moon ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clementine_(spacecraft) ) It’s worth noticing that while NASA was involved with the Clementine mission, it was primarily in an advisory or “Remmington Steele” capacity, in which all the credit is given to someone who was just sort of on hand, and really couldn’t have given less of a damn about what was going on as the agency as a whole was just trying to get in Stephanie Zimbalist’s pants.
Ok, there’s some (incomprehensible) hyperbole there admittedly, but the bottom line is that NASA had studiously ignored the moon from 1973 until 1994, and didn’t even bother to unpack half the rocks brought back by the Apollo program (This is true - most of ‘em are still unopened and unstudied in storage in Houston). In fact, they wanted nothing to do with the Clementine, and the entire project was dreamed up and done by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. NASA just drove the car, and only grudgingly. At the conclusion of the episode, they decided to confirm their findings by smashing Clementine in to the lunar south pole in hopes of kicking up a big plume of ejecta, and then spectrographically analyzing that from earth before the dust settled.
They found dick.
This time out, the LCROSS mission ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LCROSS ) again found ‘very likely’ signs of water, or really a water-ish substance that, chemically speaking, isn’t quite the same ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroxyl ), and once again we rammed the spacecraft in to the moon to spectrographically analyze the dust before it settled. Once again, we found dick.
There was a bit of grandstanding this time out, NASA was hoping the plume would be (Barely) visible from earth, and function as something of a publicity stunt, as well as confirming water (or water-ish stuff) on the moon, which would be win/win for them. Of course this is NASA so, in the end, they couldn’t pull of either of those and got dick.
A number of sources are saying “I told you so,” and NASA is being chastised for blowing $79 million (Chickenfeed in NASA terms, really) for, well, dick. In this case, “Dick” is defined as “Stuff we knew or suspected already, and no additional information.” Caught typically flatfooted by the debacle, NASA couldn’t even figure out why they didn’t see the blast ( http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17951-nasa-puzzles-over-invisible-... ) This is despite Peter Schultz of Brown University declaring back in August that the plume would be between 100 and 1000 times less massive than anticipated. Buncha’ chumps. Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston has flat out said that it “Was not a sound strategy” because:
>>>If LCROSS is unsuccessful in finding water, says Spudis, it will not say anything definitive about the moon because it could simply mean that scientists were unlucky in hitting a dry patch.
On the other hand, a positive detection of water would not provide any information about the extent and distribution of ice on the moon's surface, which Spudis says is the point of looking in the first place. "That tells me the fundamental rationale behind the mission was flawed."<<< (That whole article is online here http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17991-was-moonsmashing-mission-doo... )
So here we sit, 40 years after the first manned landing, and nearly 50 years after we started sending probes, and we’re still in pretty much the same position we were in when the Soviets started: “Dunno for sure if there’s any water on the moon, but probably there ain’t” (Translated from the Russian)
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m anti-NASA, or that they’re a bunch of goons, because they’re not. Not exactly, anyway. Well, yeah, actually, they kinda’ sorta’ are. Undeniably NASA was once a heroic agency staffed by the brightest and the best, who dared mighty things, but since 1973 they have increasingly been just another bloated government bureaucracy who’s only intention is their own self-perpetuation and the maintenance of their budget. And in the end, this kind of thing doesn’t matter to them at all. Sure, they’re a bit chagrinned at the moment, but if anyone grills them on it, or the 14 people they’ve killed needlessly since 1986, they’ll just grouse on about their past glories from 40 years ago, as if that justifies a generation spent spankin’ it in Low Earth Orbit. (“Well, with out this kind of research, we’ll never know for sure if people will be able to spank it in High Earth Orbit! But once we conquer that, we’re halfway to spankin’ it all over the solar system!”) Swell, but what have you done for us lately? In the end, fourteen people have died not in service of science (The Columbia was engaged in Perfume research when it was destroyed, really), but in the service of high-budget bureaucratic masturbation. Here's a bit of info on the typically half-assed search for water http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17959-hunting-for-water-on-the-moo...
Hey, NASA, here’s a suggestion:
Put a person on the moon, give them a shovel, and let them dig in the area you suspect has water. I’ll even meet you half way, it can be as big and ludicrously over designed a shovel as you want, but come on, with all those hundreds of shuttle missions, you’re going to tell me that you couldn’t have assembled something like a LEM in orbit in the last 28 years?
Or would that reveal that you actually don’t give a damn about actually *Going* to the moon in the first place? Just more money to fund paper studies?
Honest to God, if I ever become President (Unlikely, I admit), NASA will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes. I will dissolve them and combine their remaining assets with those the Military already has to form some kind of “United States Space Force” that will actually, you know, *DO* stuff.
A half a century of dick has kind of soured me on the “Civilian space agency” option.